How “Not” To Point Bullets

Michael Bell

An Exercise in Frustration aka How NOT to Point Bullets.

It’s very likely most of us will be able to recall our best scores with regard to our ‘Fly” shooting.

I wouldn’t be so sure that most would be able to recall our WORST scores. Sometimes, for the sake of maintaining a positive attitude, it’s just better to forget about the horrible stuff & get on with improving that overall score.

Not too long ago, while shooting a match at the Wagga range, I found myself in a situation that I simply could not ignore.

Having competed in the registered 500metre event on Saturday, we reassembled to compete in the 300 metre Sunday match.

For me 300 meter shooting is fantastic. It’s an opportunity to experiment with custom rifles or a chance to pull out the trusty fox rifle & have a blast.

Generally, it’s light-hearted but most still like to have a go and post a good score. Competition is always stiff & the scores at the top of the leaderboard are usually only separated by a few points.

On this day I settled down over my Donkey ( 30 BRX ) & readied myself for the smack in the shoulder that this little cartridge delivers. Having loaded the 118 grain flat bases in front of an absolute case full (37+ grns) of fast burning 2207 meant free recoil was out of the question.

“Commence fire” was the command for the warmer target.

I let one off & was immediately impressed by the belting I had just received.

Having not shot this rifle for a few months my first thought was…”shit.. I know it comes back at me but I don’t remember it being this sharp!”.

Perhaps the volume of beer consumed the night before in the clubhouse had left me a little delicate and so there was nothing to do but encourage myself to “man up” & get on with it.

I managed to find the centre a couple of times but was struggling with wide shots in every direction. I had a good look at the conditions, which weren’t fantastic & assumed that the very low BC of the musket balls I was shooting was the cause of the wide shots.

1st detail went something like this..10, 10, I’m thinking “ok” not bad so far….4 @ 10 o’clock..”shit”….6 @ 3 0clock…”Whaaat”…7 @ 6 oclock….”bloodyhell..that’s embarrassing!”

All details thereafter told a similar tale of woe.

In addition to the shots landing all over the score card I was having sticky bolt issues….not on the lift after firing but on the close when feeding!!

The conditions, although not great were reasonably predictable as indicated by the winning score which I think was 291, In fact the top 3 all scored 290.

The most I could manage was a miserable 250 with a few flies & this with a rifle & load recipe that has scored 290+ on a few other occasions.

Something was amiss & at this stage, I had no real idea what.

While shooting, lots of things were going through the old head but my ability to process was about as accurate as the shots I was making.

The rifle was bucking like a frisky pony & I was getting a little head stamping on the base of the cases.

I first thought I might have overloaded.

I quickly realized this was not possible as I literally could not put anymore 2207 powder in this case & had used this load many times before with good results.

Did I use the wrong powder?

No…the only powder faster than 2207 that I have is 2205 & I ran into max pressure while testing that at about 32 grains, a lot less than I used this time, so,…not that. “Buggered if I know, I’ll have to have a good think & look when I get home”.

The next day I allocated myself a couple of hours to sort the issue. I thought I would start at the beginning & work through each step methodically….how hard could it be?

Like all of us I have a system when reloading. Get out the old cases, give the necks a clean with steel wool. Chamber one in the rifle with firing pin removed & check for chamber tightness. Size case & recheck for chamber tightness. I’m looking for a very easy bolt close on the sized case. I did all this with a single case & all was well…sizing the cases incorrectly was not the issue.

What else? Logic tells me it won’t have anything to do with powder or primer so I missed this step & went straight to projectile seating.

When considering this step I realized I had done a few little things differently.

I had increased the squeeze on the projectile by using a smaller neck bush in my die. Could this be the issue? Typically I’ll seat the projectiles well into the lands…maybe the bolt closure issue was because I had seated them too long & the extra neck tension was not allowing the projectile to be pushed back into the case when chambering? Seemed like a long shot to me but I went through the process anyway.

Seat a bullet, measure it in the usual way, refer to my loading notes & observe that the seating depth was exactly as I wanted…ummm,…chamber the round & close the bolt. Perfect,…no resistance at all. “What the!!”

I repeated this process with 3 more cases & everything was fine.

I must have sat there looking at the blank wall for 15 minutes or more just going over everything in my mind.

What had I done differently???

Well…I pointed the bullets but I have nearly always done that…………. Hang on a minute!!……ahhh!!…… Bell, you are an imbecile, give yourself an uppercut & make it a good one!……. I pointed these twice!!

In an experimental effort to get a sharper point I had used two inserts. The normal one for this type of bullet & then another insert for vld type projectiles.

I grabbed my pointing die & repeated the process on a projectile, seated this projectile in a sized case and chambered the round.

Well I’ll be….. I had difficulty closing the bolt!

 I extracted the case & measured the neck diameter which was .3330. Holy smoke! My barrel chamber neck diameter is only .333, no wonder I had issues closing the bolt & no wonder the rifle was belting me up, the pressure must have been enormous!

How did this happen?.. well… here’s the guts of it.

The bullets were flat base (not boat tailed).

When pointing, the projectile sits on a flat button where the case holder would normally be in the press.

By cycling the press the projectile is inserted into the die & by pressing the projectile into the insert within the die, the point is made.

Some pressure is required to achieve this which in turn, (as it turns out),can put enough downward pressure on the bottom of the projectile to flatten & expand the pressure ring at the base of the projectile.

These are 30 cal projectiles which measure .308 at the shank & .3085 at the pressure ring. Some of my pointed projectiles were measuring .312 at the pressure ring & when seated were expanding the case neck to a number larger than the neck diameter within the barrel chamber…a recipe for disaster which really could have been catastrophic for me…..I’m thinking I’m both stupid & lucky at the same time….

Better give myself another uppercut!!

Bullet before pointing

Bullet After “Over Pointing”

Thinking back, I can remember another day some years ago when I had similar issues both with the Donkey & a PPC I prepared for my stepson to shoot. We drove home that afternoon scratching our heads & wondering why those bullets went so wide. At the time I was prepared to accept I had simply buggered up the loading process, but now I’m thinking I may have over pointed some of these projectiles… I’m a slow learner that’s for sure!!

I suppose I should answer the obvious questions which would be…Why are you pointing flat base short-range bullets in the first place? & will you do it again?

Well….it was a 300 meter match which is still a good distance & the short fat 30 cals have very little BC built into them so I was trying to give myself a little advantage.

Yes, I will point them again but will be sure to do it only once & be careful not to overdo it.

I have tested this since & I can improve the meplat a little by pointing but I am also measuring the pressure ring of the projectile to ensure it hasn’t expanded.

Truth is I can’t really say with any certainty that pointing these bullets actually does improve my chances but I probably will continue with it anyway.

The thing about the Donkey (30 BRX) is that it is an extremely accurate calibre shooting bullets with very low BCs which makes it a real challenge to stay with other extremely accurate rifles (Dashers etc) shooting much higher BC bullets, especially when the breeze gets up a little!

All the Very Best